Mary Gilmer
Faculty Member
Last active: 3/27/2014

Comparison of continuing bonds reported by parents and siblings after a child's death from cancer.

Foster TL, Gilmer MJ, Davies B, Dietrich MS, Barrera M, Fairclough DL, Vannatta K, Gerhardt CA
Death Stud. 2011 35 (5): 420-40

PMID: 24501854 · PMCID: PMC3918682 · DOI:10.1080/07481187.2011.553308

Few studies have distinguished similarities and differences between continuing bonds as they appear in various bereaved populations, particularly parent versus sibling cohorts following a child's death. This mixed-method study compared how parents and siblings experienced continuing bonds in 40 families who lost a child to cancer. Thirty-six mothers, 24 fathers, and 39 siblings were recruited 3-12 months post-loss (M = 10.7, SD = 3.5). Nearly all participants (97%) reported engaging in purposeful bonds with deceased children, while only 14% reported nonpurposeful connections. Over half of participants (58%) experienced comforting effects from reminders of the deceased child, whereas only 10% of family members experienced discomforting effects. Mothers communicated with the deceased, thought about the deceased, and did things that the deceased child would have liked more often than siblings. Mothers also reported significantly more comforting effects than siblings. Additional research is needed to further delineate continuing bonds for different types of loss and examine associations with positive and negative outcomes for bereaved individuals.

MeSH Terms (15)

Adaptation, Psychological Adolescent Adult Bereavement Child Female Humans Male Neoplasms Object Attachment Parent-Child Relations Parenting Quality of Life Siblings Young Adult

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